Luis Tristan (1580-1624)
This is a representation of Saint Dominic of Guzman as a penitent, following the Catholic politic, articulated at the Council of Trent, of promoting the ideas refuted by the Protestants, like the importance of the Saints as advocates before God, or the penance.
This is a quality work signed by El Greco's best disciple, Luis Tristan. The artist mixes his knowledged of his master's compositions, with the deep influence of Caravaggio's Naturalism-Tenebrism. Tristan travelled to Rome, where he learnt this style and completed his formation. The figures disposition, as well as his small head, is reminiscent of El Greco, but Tristan uses very different colors. The contrasted illumination, the stark anatomy, and the careful drawing of the foreground elements give this painting a less etereal and mistical aspect when compared to El Greco's works.
In the foreground different iconographical elements can be seen, like the skull and the cross, symbols of penance and meditation about God and his sacrifice, or the dog, symbol of the Dominican Order and the Saint himself. The dog iconography has its origins in a legend of the Saints birth. According to the legend his mather, while pregnant, dreamt of her son with a star on his forehead, and a black and white dog (the colors of the Dominican garb) with a lighted torch on his mouth. This dog was interpreted as the Saint himself who, as a good guardian dog, would arrive with his light to defend faith and church from the "darkness" of heresies. The legend comes from a pun between Dominican and Domini-canis (dog of the Lord) or Domini-custos (guardian of the Lord).